Hamish Banks

Hamish Banks

Job Title

Structural Engineer

Who do you work for?

I work with the consulting firm Arup, which is based in Adelaide.

What does your job involve?

I work on improving buildings in countries like Timor-Leste and Vanuatu.  In 2015, I traveled with Arup to Vanuatu after the island nation was devastated by Cyclone Pam. Winds of up to 300km/h demolished vital infrastructure, including many schools across Vanuatu’s southern islands. As part of a World Bank program to rebuild Vanuatu’s schools, my team and I carried out a diagnostic study to look at the performance of school buildings after the cyclone. This involved undertaking detailed inspections of buildings to identify the critical failure points, such as how the roofs were strapped to the walls and how walls were connected to the foundations. They also interviewed school principals and government staff to understand how their schools were constructed and maintained.

Prior to working in Vanuatu, I spent 18 months with Engineers Without Borders in Timor-Leste, assisting local staff to develop low cost building products, including stabilised earth bricks, made by mixing clay and cement.

Why did you choose to work in this sector?

I’ve always liked working with my hands. When you work as an engineer you see the outcomes in a really practical way. With my international development work, I can use my skills to make an impact on people’s lives that aren’t as fortunate as we are.

What is the most rewarding part of your current job?

I really love having a job where I can use my skills to make a positive impact on people’s lives. Working as an engineer, you get to see the outcomes of your work in a really clear and practical way.

What has been one of your recent achievements?

In Timor-Leste we had to relocate a community due to the expansion of an airport, this involved making about 700,000 bricks to build 35 houses. It was exciting to take a technology that was only used on a small scale and adapt it for a large scale job. It’s really cool to see the way it all came together.

What do you hope to do in the future?

I really love working with the international development teams. One of the main goals of my career is work with communities in other countries to help them improve the quality of their infrastructure.

What training did you have for this job?

I went to Mount Barker Waldorf School in the Adelaide Hills, where I was encouraged to use my hands in a broad study across academic, artistic and practical activities. I studied maths, physics and chemistry in a bridging course at Flinders University for one year after high school to prepare for a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil & Structural) at Adelaide University.

What career advice would you give to students interested in a similar career?

Being comfortable with mathematics is really important for engineering. Maths is an important tool which can help to break down a large, seemingly impossible problem, into smaller, manageable pieces. I recommend that students at school follow their passions. My advice for students is to pursue what you love, because it means when you go to work, you’re going to be happy.